Reflections from the 2010 AASLH Conference

The New Year is quickly approaching and the Education Department at Drayton Hall is excited to implement new approaches and ideas garnered throughout 2010 to further strengthen the educational opportunities for visiting students.  As the Curator of Education at Drayton Hall, I attended the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) Annual Conference this past October in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The AASLH provides leadership and support for its members who preserve and interpret state and local history. The organization also offers a yearly opportunity for museum professionals from across the country to share their best practices and learn from their colleagues. This year’s conference Winds of Opportunity focused on new perspectives, taking chances, and self-examination for professionals in the museum field.  

Drayton Hall’s goals for the conference included:  meeting with Cherie Cook from AASLH to examine the data collected from surveys during Drayton Hall’s spring 2010 education season and my participation in numerous conference and round-table discussions, in order to share the knowledge with the staff at Drayton Hall.

The first day in Oklahoma City, Craig Tuminaro, Drayton Hall’s Director of Museum Interpretation and I attended an all-day session with Cherie Cook from AASLH. The session explained the results of Drayton Hall’s education program survey that was designed by the AASLH and conducted during the spring education season. The survey was completed by 108 teachers and 188 students from a variety of grade levels that participated in one or more education programs. Results showed that of the 29 attributes tested, 15 received “top” ratings. This information is exactly what we wanted to know: what we did well in order to continue and what we needed to address to improve the visitor experience.

I spent the remainder of the time at the conference in sessions and visiting Oklahoma City museum sites. The sessions I attended included the Educators and Interpreter Breakfast Roundtable; the keynote speaker address by Susan Stamberg; sessions Engaging All Ages: A Discussion of Successful Family Programming; Engaging Students and Teachers Through Collections; Determining the Effectiveness of School Programs; and many others. I also had the opportunity to visit the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial Museum, the Oklahoma History Center, and The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. Thanks to the conference, I learned from other museums’ challenges and successes in creating best practices for public programming and education programs. 

  During Drayton Hall’s monthly staff meeting, I shared details of the conference experiences and a brief overview of the AASLH education survey results with all departments.  During Drayton Hall’s monthly Interpretation and Education Department meeting, I presented  the results of the education survey  and shared what I learned at the conference sessions as well as my experiences as a visitor to many of Oklahoma City’s museums.

Drayton Hall met all of its goals for the conference.  Craig and I both felt that the survey and the meeting provided very valuable information for the improvement of Drayton Hall’s public programming. In the coming year I will be serving as the AASLH State Team Leader for South Carolina and hope to attend the 2011 conference.

 

Funding for Rikki’s conference attendance was made possible by a grant from the National Endowments for the Humanities and National Trust for Historic Preservation.

 

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